Date: 1/7/21 1:45 pm From: Nate Dias (via carolinabirds Mailing List) <carolinabirds...> Subject: Reported "Cackling Geese" at Santee NWR
People have been reporting "Cackling" Goose (up to 5 of them) at Santee NWR recently. Most have been reporting them based on smaller size than nearby feral Canada Geese and subjective features like neck length and bill size (viewed at pretty long distance). I haven't seen or heard any details about breast plumage, primary projection, etc. Nor have I yet seen any definitive photos on eBird lists.
One thing to keep in mind is that Cackling Goose is REALLY small - not much larger than a Mallard.
* Another thing to keep in mind is that nearly all the Canada Geese one sees in South Carolina nowadays are ferals of the "giant" race. But Santee NWR is also the last regular wintering location in South Carolina for small numbers of migratory Canada Geese - from the James Bay population. These are significantly smaller (with shorter bills) than the feral Canadas.
-- I can't help but wonder if people who are unaccustomed to seeing migratory Canadas (and always seeing Giant feral Canadas) *might* be calling them Cackling Geese.
I have also heard some grousing that the eBird editors are not accepting "good" Cackling Geese. I would contend that without good + relevant descriptions or photos showing key details, they are being justifiably skeptical.
I think it far more likely that 5 smaller Canadas at Santee NWR would be James Bay birds rather than Richardson's Cackling Goose. I did see half a dozen migratory Canadas last winter on visits to the restricted area with former manager Marcie Kapisch and also with Garrett Wilkerson, who was the refuge biologist at the time.
This is not to rule out Cackling - but folks need to provide more to have them accepted as valid by various 'gatekeepers'.